Editor’s Note: Back in September we published our “10 Best Places to Retire in South Carolina” article. Its very first Comment was from Judith. She wrote that she was about to leave on a 2 week tour, and even promised to write up a report of her travels. She lived up to her promise (Thanks Judith!), and here is her report. Note that we have added a few comments from other Topretirements members at the bottom of some of the cities to try to give even more dimension. We just love these in-person reports – nothing better!
October 30, 2016 — I did a two week tour of South Carolina from Sept. 21 to Oct. 6, and it’s taken me two more weeks to get on top of all my home chores after such a long absence. Laundry, email, you know. But it’s a quiet Saturday morning now, and I have time to put down my thoughts, for those who asked.
Travelers Rest: I entered the state of South Carolina on the freeway from Asheville, NC, which allowed me to pass through Travelers Rest. I was charmed! Loved the tall pines and rolling hills. Just beautiful. I must return for a second look.
Greenville. Would have been perfect perhaps 10 years ago, but it’s gotten so big now and so complex. Success has been not only a friend but also an enemy. If only there were a magic wand to go “POOF!” and erase everything built over the last few years. I’m just too late to the party on Greenville. And I’m sad, because I can see what it used to be.
(Comment from Marianne: I drove over to Greenville after visiting my daughter in Birmingham back in August. I was very impressed with the downtown even though I encountered rain all weekend. I did find traffic to be more than I had hoped for.)
(Comment from Paulette: My husband and I just retired here to Greenville from Minneapolis. I grew up here and have such wonderful memories. We bought a home of a manageable size near the downtown and can walk everywhere. We love it!)
(Comment from Brad: My wife and I spent about 4 days in the Greenville, SC area a few months ago. Greenville is a great city that has a beautiful downtown area. Several businesses lining the streets along with the trees. The city spent 13.4 million to create the Falls Park where the Reedy River runs through. Walking paths and flowers add to the beauty of this area while you can enjoy the beautiful falls views. The downtown seemed easy enough to navigate through. Several cultural opportunities, and other things to do. If you go to the outskirts of town, you will find anything, and I do mean anything you would want concerning businesses, stores, restaurants, etc. We loved it! however, we are looking at some of the smaller communities outside of town, but within close distance of Greenville. We are not city folk but would like to be within reach of all that Greenville has to offer.)
Clemson was a side-trip from Greenville. I loved the college campus and little town. Really liked it a lot. I’m going to go back when I make another trip to the state.
Lake Keowee: This was a side-trip from Clemson. I was really disappointed. I expected to see lots of waterfront properties and pretty lake views, but instead I saw a man-made reservoir that just was not attractive. Drove as far as White Harbor and cut my losses. Waste of time. If you know differently, please educate me. Keep in mind, this was only a quick look.
(Comment from Ron: Lake Keowee is a beautiful lake surrounded by Nothing. The lake is about an hour drive from route 85 and one hour plus from Greenville the nearest civilization. I do not like the huge Nuke plant in the center of the lake area but maybe that is just me. If you like rural living far away from civilization this is the place.)
Aiken: Absolutely loved Aiken. Rolling hills, pretty vistas, very adorable old-timey main street downtown. Also has all the shopping and medical I would want. I’m not a horse person, but nonetheless felt I could fit in there. I didn’t see a single soul walking around in riding gear, and I had been led to believe it was that kind of town. My main objective in Aiken was to explore the Woodside Plantation community, which I could not have entered unless with a realtor. I stopped at Coldwell Banker and a lovely woman (Patti) spent two hours driving me around W.P. and Aiken. I could be quite content to live in this town. Negatives? Well, I’ve thought about it, and here’s what I think. It’s isolated. Is that good or bad? Both. Will friends and family go “Ugh!” at the thought of just getting there? Or would I feel that way when wanting to fly anywhere? Worth thinking about. But the good part about being isolated is that there’s less chance of rapid growth like what happened to Greenville.
Summerville: Way more spread out than I had imagined for a town that size. With the exception of the area around the freeway interchange, it’s pretty, with tall trees everywhere. There was an Italian festival going on downtown, where I hear there’s always something interesting going on. Wide variety of housing types and prices. My budget is in the 300’s or less, so no problem finding lots of candidates. Seems like a real nice community. I lean towards living in a community where I would be a “member.” That might be a 55+ place like Cresswind at the Ponds, or an all-ages like Summers Corner or Carnes Crossing on the other side of I-26. Or even a more middle-class neighborhood like Trillium (around 200K), where the houses all have front porches and the garages are in a rear alley. There’s a community pool, but I don’t know if there’s clubs and activities for seniors. I really liked Summerville. A top contender.
(Comment from Jack about Summerville: Chose Summerville because of closeness to downtown Charleston, the beaches, the island towns, taxes, 3 hours to mountains and general pleasantness. Yes, it is hot in the summer, but because Summerville is “higher” ground than the ” Low Country” surrounding us there are no mosquitos. Always a breeze and blows them away.)
Beaufort: On the drive from Summerville to Beaufort, all of a sudden the terrain switched very dramatically. I came out of the forest and into the swamp. From tall trees to low scrub. Visually I found that lacking in appeal. And I’m not interested in sailing. I toured Celadon, a new-traditional development in Ladys Island just a few minutes from central Beaufort. The homes are like those in Summers Corner– love this style and will try to buy this type of home. What concerned me about Celadon is that the neighborhood is entirely shrouded by a mossy tree canopy. I like a lot of light in my home, and as much as I loved this neighborhood I feel that I’d become depressed with all the shade. I know it would be a plus with summer heat, but I fear the gloomy feeling the rest of the year. Hated to cross this one off, but I know myself. Took a quick drive through CitiWalk and it’s just too small. Would not offer anything for seniors looking for a feeling of community.
(Comment from pschmidt: Beaufort reminds me of a river town of long gone era..Beautiful with shops restaurants and water..I can see why it has a top rating as far as livability..You not only can live in a old charming town with lots to do(Festivals, arts etc) and you are so close to many interesting places of which you can drive to within a couple hours…Charleston(35 minutes) Hilton Head(30 minutes) Savannah (35 minutes) Jacksonville (2 hours) and Myrtle Beach (2 hours)…Crime is high in my opinion in the area of tourist crime (break in of cars)and theft.. Very little violent crime that I can see…Overall to us a perfect area…Oh did I mention the food..Come see and enjoy)
Bluffton: Big boulevards, you drive for miles and miles to get anywhere. I made time to drive through Hampton Lake, and it was probably a good fit for me in terms of lifestyle. (I loved the fantastic pool and clubhouse facilities.) Homes more expensive than comparables in Summerville, but about the same as Celadon in Beaufort. I spent the evening in old town Bluffton, which was a lot smaller than I’d expected. I got the feeling that it’s a tourist kind of downtown. Overall, it was hard to figure out where I’d fit in Bluffton. I liked the look and feel of the town, but didn’t see enough to even know what I’m talking about here. So don’t put much stock in my opinion here. I liked it enough to go back, I’ll say that. One thing to note is that it’s only 30 min to the Savannah airport. Also, the new branch of Univ South Carolina Beaufort is right there in Bluffton. I wanted to drive through Del Webb Hilton Head, so I tailgated my way through the security gate and drove through really quickly (I felt guilty!!). It’s pretty, and I’d definitely make time on a return trip to give it a proper look. It’s also pretty large, meaning there’d be tons of activities for seniors. One negative I see online quite a bit is the heavy, heavy traffic heading in and out of Hilton Head island. They say it’s only getting worse. Something to consider.
(Comment from pschmidt: It has been 14 months since we moved here and I have to say there has never been a day that we regret our move. The people here in the area are the friendliest I have ever met. People go out of their way to help each other. Traffic is bad IF you are visiting Hilton Head Island during the summer months and trying to eat at a restaurant on the Island during tourist season will test your patience. The great part is there are fabulous places to eat in Bluffton. The prices tend to be a little better and at many places no wait time. Food is one of the BEST things about the area. You can find something for everybody. There is always something to do in the area and many places to go for a day trip. The only complaint we would have is the medical care here, one would think that with the growing population and many seniors better health care would be available. In the year I do see an improvement but many specialist you have to go to Savannah however many doctors are now coming to this area a few days a week. I suspect in the future this will be a great place for medical care also. So I would say come on down and enjoy the slow pace and beautiful area…It will be the best move you will ever make..)
So that’s it, folks. I knew as soon as I got to SC that I really liked it and that this would just be a quick survey of the towns I’d discovered and liked on TopRetirements.com and Ideal-living.com. I’ll come back in about a year for round 2. I’ll rent a furnished apartment or long-term airbnb (which is what I stayed in every night of this trip) and I’ll stay at least 6 weeks. I want to return to Travelers Rest, Aiken, Clemson, Summerville, and Bluffton. A long stay will allow me time to visit Charleston and Hilton Head, places I avoided on this first trip because I’m not considering living in either one.
Editor’s note: Judith’s review is also available as a Comment in the original “10 Best Places to Retire in South Carolina” article.
Comments? Have you toured potential retirement spots in South Carolina? Please share your observations – what you liked and didn’t like – in the Comments section below.